See Stranger Than Family At David Weinberg Gallery

By Julia Weeman in Arts & Entertainment on May 11, 2012 7:00PM

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Matt Avignone was “flown into his family’s arms, not by a stork, but by a 747.” His new body of work, Stranger Than Family, is a series of environmental portraits of his seemingly unconventional family. He and his four siblings were all adopted, from South Korea and India, and his work documents, in his words, “a typical family who has gone through extraordinary circumstances.”

We got a chance to interview Avignone and see his solo exhibition, which is at David Weinberg Gallery through June 11. Although he is still an emerging photographer, Avignone has received numerous awards and accolades, including a nomination for the prestigious Baum Award for Emerging American Photographer.

Stranger Than Family started when he was a student at Columbia College as seven formal headshots of his entire family, but has evolved in the three years he has been working on it. “It’s now more about viewing life as it passes by. I just want to present my family as who they are,” said Avignone of his work.

The work includes 21 large format photographs, as well as family documents, objects, snapshots, and a book. The large format photographs are expertly printed on cotton rag sateen paper, which gives them a beautiful textural quality that amplifies the beauty in each image.

The second room of work gives deeper context of who the family is through adoption documents, passports, and family snapshots. Included is the first photograph his parents ever saw of him, and the moment they welcomed him home. His adoption documents also reveal that his biological father was also a photographer. Delving into the context that feeds his unique story is both fascinating and moving. The book, An Unfinished Body, is a handmade signature sewn book consisting of 30 family documents and 50 original photographs.

Avignone’s more recent work is centered around capturing “that fleeting moment which is a split second.” He has a blog called There’s Just No Telling which he describes as a “photographic sketchbook.” He uses a point and shoot to try new things and then posts them on his blog so that he can use things he likes in his more formal work.

See Stranger Than Family through June 11 at David Weinberg Gallery, located at 300 W. Superior St. in River North. The gallery is open Monday-Friday from 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. and by appointment.